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Vasher

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Vasher
Zahel-the-Swordmaster.jpg
Spouse Shashara
Abilities Returned, Awakener, Worldhopper, Cognitive Shadow, Shardbearer (formerly)
Titles Strifelover, Peacegiver the Blessed, Warbreaker the Peaceful
Aliases Zahel, Kalad the Usurper, Talaxin, Tax[1]
Profession Scholar, Ardent, Swordmaster
Groups Five Scholars
World Nalthis
Universe Cosmere
Featured In Warbreaker, The Stormlight Archive

I have trouble talking. I get frustrated. I snap at people. Doesn’t make me very popular. But I promise you that I won’t lie to you.

—Vasher to Vivenna[2]

Vasher, Kalad the Usurper, Strifelover, Peacegiver the Blessed, Talaxin, Zahel, or Warbreaker the Peaceful is a Returned from Nalthis. He helps create the Awakened sword Nightblood and is one of the Five Scholars.

Appearance & Personality[edit]

I’m old, son, repeating myself makes me eat the wrong flower.

—Zahel to Renarin after asking him to jump in Shardplate.[3]

Vasher is a tall man[1] who has trouble expressing himself. He lets his anger get the better of him, and is rough around the edges.[4] Vasher's memory has a few holes.[5]. He is usually grumpy.[6]

During most of the Pahn Kahl rebellion, he looks ragged. He wears ragged brown clothing, ripped in places, and wears loose trousers tied at the waist by a simple rope. His facial hair is halfway between a beard and just scruff. His hair is unkempt and comes down to his shoulders.[7]

As a Returned, he can change his appearance at will.[8] When he wants to show his Returned form to Susebron, for example, he becomes taller, muscular, and clean-shaven; his hair color becomes golden and he displays a color-enhancing aura.[9]

On Roshar he also appears long-haired, and he wears a short but scruffy black beard. He wears loose tan clothing tied with ropes, with a robust build and a scar on his cheek. His eyes "seem old", but his skin doesn't seem wrinkled enough to match them. He has a low, scratchy, grinding voice.[10] He becomes a swordmaster and joins the ardents, though he knows he is not good at this second job.[11] He uses exclamations and phrases involving colors, which often confuse the Rosharans.[12]

Attributes and Abilities[edit]

Wielding Nightblood

Returned[edit]

As a Returned, Vasher has a Divine Breath, making him automatically of the Fifth Heightening.[13] However, over the years he has learned to give away all of his Breath except for the one Divine Breath that keeps him alive. As long as he has that one Breath (which he’s learned to suppress and hide), he can stay alive.[14]

On Roshar, he uses Stormlight to keep himself alive. Though he cannot use it to Awaken,[15] he can still sense people.[12] He can draw Investiture from highstorms,[16] but doesn't have access to Surgebinding.[17] The method he uses involves the gap in his Spiritweb left by his Divine Breath.[18]

Awakening[edit]

Vasher has a lot of good information, and a handle on what he doesn’t understand.[19] He can trivially issue three Commands in one Awakening, which is a difficult task for some Awakeners.[20]

Vasher has also developed innovations in the application of Breaths. He created Kalad's Phantoms, a near-unstoppable army of Lifeless stone soldiers. He is also one of two known Awakeners who have created sentient inanimate objects, having created Nightblood.

He has not figured out how to Awaken using Stormlight.[15]

Swordsmanship[edit]

Vasher is a very skilled swordsman, with three hundred years of practice along with his Returned speed and strength. Though he has admitted that he is not the best swordsman because his temper gets in the way, his ingenuity in combat gives him an edge. He also is open to using "cheap tricks" in combat, such as transferring Breaths to stun his opponent.[21] A clear indicator of his sword-fighting prowess is that on Roshar he is a highly sought-after Alethi weapons-master, having directly trained both of the Kholin children and Kaladin in the use of and defense against Shardblades. His familiarity with wielding Shardblades presumably was honed by using Nightblood, who is similar to a very powerful Shardblade.[22]

History[edit]

First years and Becoming a Returned[edit]

Vasher was born on Nalthis[23] and eventually died and Returned. Like other Returned, he cannot remember anything of his life from before his Return. After he Returned, the Cult of the Returned named him Warbreaker the Peaceful and kept him alive by giving him Breath.[8]

He formed the Five Scholars, along with the other Returned Denth, Arsteel, Shashara, and Yesteel. Vasher (then known as Talaxin) and Shashara created Nightblood some time after Worldhopping[25] to Roshar,[26] among other things, while they were both in love. He married Shashara shortly before he slew her with Nightblood. He killed her in order to prevent the knowledge of its creation from being disseminated.[27]

The Manywar and Aftermath[edit]

After the Five Scholars split, they all joined different sides in the Manywar, each bringing different specialized knowledge to their chosen kingdoms.[13]

By the time war started, Vasher was known as Kalad. The true origin of the war is a topic of debate among scholars,[13] but it is known that Kalad was the man who started the Manywar against the cities of Kuth and Huth. Stories say Kalad used his knowledge of BioChromatic Breath to create a vast army of Lifeless and seize power in Hallandren. He protected the kingdom with his armies, yet shattered the kingdom as well by driving the royals into the highlands.[28]

He later had a change of heart, which was so confusing for people that they thought he was a different person. Because of this, he also became known as Peacegiver, who defeated Kalad and sent away the Phantoms.[7][13]

Kuth and Huth had already been destroyed, but the other kingdoms agreed to stop the Manywar thanks to Peacegiver's diplomacy.[13][8]

Peacegiver left a treasure of over fifty thousand Breaths with the first God King, to be kept safe but not used.[29] He also left the Phantoms Invested with enough Breath to stay together but not move, ready to take action again with a sufficient influx of Breath.[30]

Vasher, Vivenna and Nightblood

Pahn Kahl Rebellion[edit]

At some point, Vasher misinterpreted Arsteel's motives in joining with Denth and killed him.[31] Due to this, and Vasher's killing of Shashara, Denth and Vasher became enemies.

Vasher used a trick to get himself imprisoned in the God King's palace. He escaped his cell and visited a rebel called Vahr. Vahr gave Vasher his Breath in exchange for a merciful death.[32]

Vasher found through a priest there was a political Hallandren group pushing for war against Idris, where the exiled royals lived.[33] Looking for more information on the faction involved, he met with Bluefingers,[34] who gave him information that led him into the home of Mercystar, a Returned who was known for her involvement in politics, yet not all that influential. He broke into her palace; after disabling some guards and creating a Lifeless squirrel as a distraction, he was able to find a secret trapdoor.[35]

He found Vivenna was inadvertently working with Denth to create disturbances and vandalize the city, which was making the movement for war stronger. Because of this, he kidnapped Vivenna and took her to one of the slums, where he forced her to take Nightblood to test her heart. As Nightblood cannot tempt the hearts of those who are pure, she felt sick and dropped the sword, thereby passing the test and gaining his protection. She still believed, however, that Denth and his team were on her side and ran back to them, only to find out they were not what they seemed.[36] Vivenna ran from them and ended up on the streets; eventually, Vasher found her and rescued her, using Nightblood to kill thugs who were threatening her.[37]

Vasher began taking Vivenna to meetings with members of the Idrian community of Hallandren; he had been trying and failing to convince them to stop the riots and avoid the war. Vivenna asked the Idrians to find a way to bring attention to their suffering without bringing hatred as well, and to become heroes to Idris.[2] After that, they continued reaching different groups of people with the same speech in favor of stopping the war.[38]

Vivenna shared some of Denth's plans with Vasher. This knowledge tipped him into finding the daughter of one of the priests who was kidnapped to turn her father in favor of the war. During this rescue, Vasher lost his temper and killed the thugs.[39]

Vivenna and Vasher went to the arena to watch the Hallandren vote on war. They found out that Siri was pregnant; at Vivenna's pleading, Vasher agreed to help save her.[40] When he broke into the God King’s palace, he was ambushed by Denth’s mercenaries who captured him.[20] When Vasher woke up, he was tied by his wrists to a hook in the ceiling of a stone room and tortured by Denth.[41]

Denth also had Nightblood thrown into a bay near T'Telir, but Nightblood was able to get himself retrieved[41]; Vivenna found him and they went to find Vasher.[42] Vivenna freed Vasher from his bonds and give him a considerable amount of Breath. He began swordfighting Denth; he appeared to be losing, but was confident that he would be able to defeat Denth in the end. However, he ended up being thrown out the window before finishing the fight. Using Awakening, he survived and found Nightblood, which he used to kill a group of Lifeless that were sent to kill him. Nightblood consumed most of his Breath, but he was able to drop Nightblood before dying. Denth came in and asked to finish the duel.[43] Vasher was at a disadvantage, but finished the battle using his secret maneuver: he transferred Breaths to Denth and took advantage of the resulting moment of shock to kill him.[21]

By the time Vasher found Vivenna again, the Pahn Kahl had already sent Hallandren’s Lifeless to attack Idris. They wanted both kingdoms to fight and be weakened, making it easier for them to gain their own liberty. Although Vasher felt hopeless about being able to stop the army, Vivenna found out Vasher's true identity and convinced him to give Susebron control of Kalad's Phantoms. Vasher showed himself as Returned and told Susebron how to activate the Phantoms.[9]

The Lifeless were destroyed, and only a couple of the Phantoms were lost.[44]. Vasher, accompanied by Vivenna, then set off to find Yesteel, who was attempting to restore Huth and Kuth.[8]

Worldhopping to Roshar[edit]

Vasher moved to Roshar, the only planet he had been to besides Nalthis.[45] His main purpose in returning to Roshar was to have easier access to the Investiture, in the form of Stormlight, that he needed in order to survive.[46] He partially walked and partially took a vehicle to get from Nalthis to Roshar,[47] making use of a caravan running between the two planets.[48] He took on the name Zahel; he intentionally chose a name similar to the word "Nahel", which means "connection to the divine" in Alethi, to hint at his Returned nature.[49] Zahel became aware of the Purelake at some point and told Nightblood about it and its "magic fish", though it is not known whether that happened during this trip or an earlier one.[50] Due to a "falling out," Vasher was separated from Nightblood after arriving at Roshar.[51][52]

During the War of Reckoning, he served as ardent and swordmaster in the Kholin warcamp. With encouragement from Adolin, whom he had trained before,[53] he became the swordmaster for Renarin Kholin.[10]

Zahel appreciated Renarin’s enthusiasm, obedience, and willingness to look foolish for the sake of training. He also offered to train Kaladin in using Shards and defending himself from Shardbearers in order to better protect the Kholins. He tested Kaladin by sparring with him; he recognized Kaladin's skill and tenacity, but still felt that he needed more training to be fully effective.[3] Kaladin didn’t accept the offer at first, but came asking for it after the attempt on the king’s life; he brought three more men from Bridge Four to train with him. Most of the training was given by Ivis, another ardent.[11]

During the Siege of Kholinar, Vivenna (now going by the name of Azure) met both Kaladin and Adolin. Before parting from them, she asked them to warn Zahel that she was looking for him.[54]

Relationships[edit]

Denth[edit]

Vasher knows Denth as VaraTreledees and Denth knows Vasher as Tax. They started out as friends, colleagues from the Five Scholars, and in-laws (when Vasher marries Denth’s sister, Shashara). However, after the creation of Nightblood, Vasher killed Shashara, making a lifelong enemy of Denth.[41]

Denth worked for the Pahn Khal and his payment would be capturing Vasher and make him pay for killing Shashara and Arsteel.[20] Denth did respect Vasher and acknowledged all the good he had done for people throughout his life.[55] Denth wanted Nightblood to kill Vasher, like he did with Shashara; or to kill him in a duel like Arsteel. In the end, Denth was killed by Vasher with the same maneuver used to kill Arsteel.[21]

Vivenna[edit]

At first, Vasher believes Vivenna is working with Denth and wants war between Idris and Hallandren. He kidnaps her and tests her by asking her to hold Nightblood. [39] Because she feels sick from doing so, he concludes she has a good heart and decides to protect her, even after she runs from him.[37] He teaches Vivenna about the theory and practice of Awakening.[38] He also helps her get a good grip on her sword and gives her some tips on how to act.[39]

Vivenna is turned against Vasher by Denth,[1][56] an impression that is reinforced by Vasher's rough treatment of Vivenna when he first kidnaps her.[36] However, after he rescues her from the streets and they train and work together, she begins to trust him more and more.[39] After the Pahn Kahl rebellion, she chooses to leave behind her life as a princess to travel the world with Vasher.[8]

Shashara[edit]

Shashara works with Vasher and the rest of the Five Scholars in their research into Awakening. They eventually fall in love and get married.[27]

She draws Nightblood at the Battle of Twilight Falls, horrifying Vasher with the result.[27] She reveals the commands for creating Lifeless with a single Breath[41] and wants to reveal the method used to create Nightblood as well, both of which Vasher opposes; they fight and he kills her using Nightblood to prevent more such abominations from being created.[27]

With Nightblood

Nightblood[edit]

Sneaking, Vasher? You’re terrible at sneaking.

—Nightblood to Vasher[35]

Vasher and Shashara create Nightblood during the days when they are in love[27] based on the Shardblades they have seen on Roshar.[57] He changes his name after using him to kill his wife. Vasher has something of a blind spot and some bias regarding Nightblood and makes assumptions he wouldn't make for others.[58]

He doesn’t usually draw Nightblood; all Vasher has to do is throw him and let him do what he does. To Vasher, if someone can be controlled by Nightblood, then they must be guilty.[59]

Nightblood can sense where Vasher is. This is because Nightblood has ingested and fed on Vasher’s Breaths in the past, which is also why he does not become sick when touching it.[60] In Roshar, it is implied he still talks to Nightblood expecting an answer, though there hasn’t been an answer in years.[12]

Dalinar Kholin’s Family[edit]

Vasher considers Dalinar Kholin and his sons to be his friends.[11] He speaks fondly to Adolin and addresses him as a student, despite the distinct hierarchical difference between them. Adolin often remembers Zahel’s (Vasher’s) advice and speaks fondly of his training with him.[61] Vasher also considers it to be a pleasure to train Renarin due to his enthusiasm, obedience, and lack of fear of looking foolish, something that Vasher says is not easy to teach.[3]

Vasher trains Kaladin and his men to be better bodyguards to the Kholins.[11] He sometimes watches Adolin duel and shouts advice to him.[62] Vasher also gives Dalinar advice on how the ardents must feel about having to choose between him and their religion when Dalinar pushes for testing the boundaries of Vorinism. Presumably thanks to his broader worldview and lack of actual adherence to Vorinism, he accepts Dalinar's actions much more readily than the other ardents.[63]

Kaladin[edit]

But boy, you’ve got red on your ears like I’ve never seen.

—Zahel to Kaladin and his men[11]

Vasher, as Zahel, trains Kaladin and is able to understand him, knowing that he is a profound person who asks many questions. Kaladin trusts Vasher enough that he later seeks his advice when he is bothered with the moral decision of letting King Elhokar be killed.[64]

Trivia[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. a b c Warbreaker chapter 19 #
  2. a b Warbreaker chapter 43 #
  3. a b c Words of Radiance chapter 18 #
  4. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-02-22#
  5. General Reddit 2017
    Arcanum - 2017-12-10#
  6. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-04-09#
  7. a b Warbreaker chapter 15 #
  8. a b c d e Warbreaker epilogue #
  9. a b Warbreaker chapter 58 #
  10. a b Words of Radiance chapter 16 #
  11. a b c d e Words of Radiance chapter 44 #
  12. a b c Words of Radiance interlude I-6 #
  13. a b c d e Warbreaker chapter 32 #
  14. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-07-25#
  15. a b Firefight Phoenix signing
    Arcanum - 2015-01-21#
  16. Calamity Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2016-02-17#
  17. Supanova 2017 - Sydney
    Arcanum - 2017-06-18#
  18. Shadows of Self Edinburgh UK signing
    Arcanum - 2015-10-21#
  19. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-03-14#
  20. a b c Warbreaker chapter 51 #
  21. a b c Warbreaker chapter 57 #
  22. Words of Radiance signing San Fansisco
    Arcanum - 2014-03-06#
  23. Manchester signing
    Arcanum - 2014-08-06#
  24. Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2016-12-06#
  25. It is known that Shashara is a Worldhopper[24] but not whether she accompanied Vasher to Roshar.
  26. Holiday signing
    Arcanum - 2015-12-12#
  27. a b c d e Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-11-16#
  28. Warbreaker chapter 7 #
  29. Warbreaker chapter 40 #
  30. Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A
    Arcanum - 2010-01-18#
  31. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-06-07#
  32. Warbreaker prologue #
  33. Warbreaker chapter 5 #
  34. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-10-19#
  35. a b Warbreaker chapter 21 #
  36. a b Warbreaker chapter 35 #
  37. a b Warbreaker chapter 41 #
  38. a b Warbreaker chapter 46 #
  39. a b c d Warbreaker chapter 49 #
  40. Warbreaker chapter 50 #
  41. a b c d Warbreaker chapter 53 #
  42. Warbreaker chapter 54 #
  43. Warbreaker chapter 56 #
  44. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-08-01#
  45. /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-06-25#
  46. White Sand vol.1 Orem signing
    Arcanum - 2016-06-29#
  47. Oathbringer release party
    Arcanum - 2017-11-13#
  48. Skyward Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-16#
  49. Skyward Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-16#
  50. Oathbringer chapter 90 #
  51. Arcanum Unbounded release party
    Arcanum - 2016-11-22#
  52. Minicon 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-04-02#
  53. Words of Radiance chapter 35 #
  54. Oathbringer chapter 110 #
  55. Warbreaker chapter 52 #
  56. Warbreaker chapter 28 #
  57. Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017
    Arcanum - 2017-09-22#
  58. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-04-25#
  59. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-06-24#
  60. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-06-22#
  61. Oathbringer chapter 15 #
  62. Words of Radiance chapter 56 #
  63. Oathbringer chapter 16 #
  64. Words of Radiance chapter 81 #
  65. Words of Radiance San Francisco signing
    Arcanum - 2014-03-06#
  66. Firefight Seattle UBooks signing
    Arcanum - 2015-01-06#
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